September 5, 2014

5 Ways Running a Business Can Be a Spiritual Practice. ~ Rebecca Beaton

Photo: William Warby via Flickr.

It took four and a half days of straight driving, only stopping to fuel up and sleep at rest stops, to go from Miami, USA back to my home in Vancouver, Canada.

It was an incredible opportunity to simply reflect, and to let all that had happened over the past three months sink in.

Starting in Vancouver, I had driven down the west coast of the United States to San Diego, then cut East across all of the southern states until I landed in Key West, Florida. My trip really hadn’t been about seeing sights, climbing mountains, or viewing waterfalls (although I had done all of these things): it had been about the inward journey of personal and spiritual growth.

It had been about the people I met along the way, but not only that—it was the exact people I needed to meet, to teach me something I needed to learn, so I could grow in exactly the way I needed to grow at each leg of the journey.

Somehow, being on this outward journey had ignited an incredible inward journey as well—one that had really taken precedence over everything else on the trip. The amount of growth and learning that took place was unbelievable, and I felt like a completely different person upon arriving home.

Now that I’m home, I’m running my own business to support soon-to-be entrepreneurs, and I think about that trip often.

It strikes me at times how similar the journey of running my own business is to the road trip I went on.

While outwardly, running my own business appears to be very different from being on a road trip (duh!), on the inside, it feels surprisingly similar. In my business, while I try out different programs, different ways of working with clients and new ways to market my services, it is less about all that “business-y” stuff than it is about the people I meet, the things I learn, and the personal and spiritual insights I have.

In fact, this has become so much so, that I’ve started to think of my business as a spiritual practice.

Some people meditate or pray as a spiritual practice; I run a business.

My intention for my road trip was not to go on a spiritual or personal growth journey, but it ended up being that way— same goes with my business. In both instances, I was simply following my heart to where it led me, and I was carried on a unanticipated transformational journey.

I want to be clear, however, that running one’s own business is not inherently a spiritual practice for everyone. It would be easy to constantly look at stats and analytics while by-passing any opportunities for personal reflection in one’s business, or to attribute different opportunities that arise to good or bad “luck”.

Just as people go on trips all the time and don’t necessarily learn anything new about themselves, people often start businesses and it isn’t necessarily more than a way to simply make money.

I’ve been reflecting lately on this idea, and asking myself:

“What opportunities does business present for personal and spiritual growth? How can one take their business from simply being a business, and transform it into a spiritual practice as well?”

Most of all, I’ve been interested in the question:

“Where do our spiritual and business lives meet?”

In reflecting on this last question in particular, I’ve noticed how much I’ve blended my own personal spiritual journey with my business.

I’ve come to realize there are five key opportunities that running my own business has presented me with, allowing me to deepen pre-existing spiritual practices, as well as to develop some new ones!

While I originally developed these practices out of what felt like necessity in order to be successful in business, I’ve reaped so many other benefits from these practices on top of that: I’m happier, more self-confident, more open and loving, more grateful, and better able to receive.

So here are the five ways I have discovered that running one’s own business can be a spiritual practice:

1. When  we don’t know from where or when the money is going to come, we have the opportunity to practice faith.

Just after I went full-time with my business, there were two months in a row where the end of the month rolled around and I didn’t yet know how I was going to pay rent. I had no choice but to hold faith that the money would come through somehow… and it did!

Both months I had clients sign on at the last minute (one was even the day before rent was due and I was blessed she paid in cash so I didn’t have to wait three days for PayPal to transfer the money over).

By holding faith and trusting that the money I needed would arrive, I assured its timely arrival. Now, I hold a much stronger faith that I will always be provided for—even in the 11th hour.

2. Any time we fail in business, we have the opportunity for personal reflection.

Back in January, I got the idea to start a Meetup group and host workshops and events. I had a super low turnout to my first few events, and without taking the time to reflect, I told myself I simply needed to persist. After a few more events with continued low turnouts, I took some time to reflect.

I learned that I was exhausted and drained by organizing events, that I didn’t enjoy the process, and that I need to do what lights me up and makes me happy in business otherwise people aren’t going to want to join me! So I stopped putting my efforts into creating meetups, and have been putting my energy into more fun (and lucrative!) methods of connecting with the people I love to help in my business.

By reflecting, I was able to draw greater self-awareness to my likes and dislikes, and how I want to show up not only in my business, but as a person in the world.

3. Because of the uncertainty inherent in running our own business, we have the opportunity to let go of attachment.

The times I am most unhappy running my business are those times when I set a certain desired outcome or goal, and don’t meet it. However, these moments are an awesome opportunity to practice non-attachment.

When I did my first group program launch for “6 Weeks to Business Clarity,” my goal was to have 10 people enroll in the program. However, when only four people enrolled, I was devastated. I had poured my heart and soul into designing and setting up the program, and I didn’t have nearly as many participants as I had hoped.

It wasn’t until I was able to let go of my attachment to my goal that I was able to see the opportunity present in my apparent “failure.” Four people ended up being the perfect size for the first run-through of the program, and I was even able to spend quality time on the phone with each participant to get some feedback and killer testimonials!

Running my own business has allowed me the opportunity to practice the dance between holding desires and intentions, while remaining unattached to outcome.

4. When we make ourselves visible, we have the opportunity to practice self love.

One of the greatest things I have learned from starting my own business is how to love and accept myself no matter what.

When I have a speaking gig that doesn’t go so well, or I run a workshop where I have trouble connecting with the participants, I have the opportunity to practice self love. When I do an online video interview and say “um” every second word, I have the opportunity to practice self love. When I get negative or dysentery comments on blog posts I’ve written, I have the opportunity to practice self love.

Yes, I’ve had the opportunity to practice self love all my life, but running my own business has nearly made it a necessity.

When one is continually putting themselves out there, offering their services, building relationships, speaking at events, writing blog posts and creating videos (often with very little feedback from others), there is a choice only between self love or spending one’s life wallowing in anxiety around what other people think!

Photo: Kanzeon Zen Center via Flickr5. To increase motivation and productivity, we have the opportunity to maintain a daily ritual.

For some reason, unless well-trained to be otherwise, our minds tend to most easily slip into negative thinking.

This might be a manageable (albeit not ideal) way of thinking when one is going to work every day, and getting paid for their time (rather than productivity, building relationships and results). However, when running one’s own business, negative thinking can completely kill motivation, inspiration, and productivity.

Personally, whenever I get into negative thinking around my business, that’s when I find myself watching movies on the couch all day (rather than actually doing the things that will help me to expand and grow my business—not to mention serve the people I am meant to serve!).

This provides an amazing opportunity for cultivating a daily ritual, morning and night, to shift my focus to a positive one—to write out everything I am grateful for, to visualize how I want to show up in the world as well as the things I desire, to meditate, and to set my intention for the day.

Before having my own business, I struggled to get myself to meditate 10 minutes per day. Now, knowing how much my mental state effects my business and livelihood (not just how I feel—although I’m never sure why that in itself was not enough!), I have the impetus to spend at least 30 minutes every morning, and 10 minutes every night, incorporating these daily rituals into my routine.

While the road trip journey has come to an end, the business journey carries on and I look forward to all the new spiritual and personal insights that are to come.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you, too: in what ways do you find running your business to be a spiritual practice?

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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renee Picard

Photos: William Warby via Flickr / Kanzeon Zen Center via Flickr

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